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Archive for Sunday, April 29, 2001

Hornets hoping sweep of Miami will earn respect

April 29, 2001

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— For Jamal Mashburn and P.J. Brown, beating the Miami Heat was personal. For the rest of the Charlotte Hornets, it was to prove a point.

The Hornets, considered a heavy underdog to Miami and picked by many to lose the best-of-five series, instead dominated the Heat for a 3-0 sweep.

"No one gave us a chance in this series," guard David Wesley said. "Everywhere we looked people were picking the Heat to sweep us. That's a slap in the face to us and motivation to prove everyone wrong."

Motivation was everywhere for the Hornets, who wrapped up the series Friday night with a 94-79 victory.

In three games, Charlotte beat Miami by a combined 67 points and held the Heat to a record-low 235 for the series. The previous record for fewest points in a three-game playoff series was 239.

The commanding performances gave Mashburn and Brown, both acquired in a nine-player offseason trade with Miami, the sweetest sense of satisfaction both wanted to show up their former team and prove they weren't responsible for the Heat's past playoff failures.

"Sure, it's gratifying," said Mashburn, who averaged 23.6 points in the series. "I'm not going to lie and say I didn't want to do this the whole series. I did want to sweep them and prove a point."

Charlotte coach Paul Silas was also looking to beat Heat coach Pat Riley. Silas spent one turbulent season as an assistant under Riley in New York and isn't exactly on the best of terms with him.

But Silas had little to say about one-upping Riley, choosing instead to revel in the emotion of the series sweep.

"This is very special, especially for the players," Silas said. "I'm just so proud of them. They all wanted this so bad, especially Mash, and they worked so hard and really came together for this."

It's been a difficult year for Silas, who took over the team 21/2 seasons ago when Dave Cowens quit over a contract dispute.

He started the season with a brand new team. He had three new starters Mashburn, Brown and second-year guard Baron Davis and Derrick Coleman was shelved for the entire preseason because of an irregular heartbeat.

But the Hornets still jumped out to a 20-9 start and briefly took the lead in the Central Division. Only things went sour when Coleman returned to the lineup. The team chemistry fell apart and the Hornets went into a tailspin.

As Silas and Coleman waged private battles the rest of the year, the Hornets slipped to the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference and were dismissed as a legitimate playoff contender.

"We were an up-and-down team all season, but that doesn't mean we don't have any talent," Wesley said. "We're just as good as any other team in the league on any given night, so it isn't fair to just write us off."

Even after the sweep of the Heat, the Hornets still felt like an underdog.

Sitting in the locker room, trying to celebrate the series win, Davis was angered when he heard commentator Charles Barkley say on television that the Hornets will lose to the Milwaukee Bucks in the second round of the playoffs.

"I don't know what we have to do to open people's eyes," Davis said.

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